That Really Cool Browns Play from Sunday? Yeah, that was Illegal.

With three “quarterbacks” on the field in the second quarter, the Cleveland Browns pulled a bit of a fast one on an unsuspecting St. Louis Rams defense.  Wildcat aficionado Joshua Cribbs took a shotgun snap from Alex Mack, flipped the ball to a motioning Seneca Wallace who would then pitch it to Colt McCoy.  McCoy eyed up his primary read in rookie receiver Greg Little. With Little covered, McCoy found a streaking Wallace for a 21-yard gain and raucous applause from the hometown crowd.

Three days later, we find out that the play should not have counted. Take it away, Tony Grossi:

The Browns’ trick play against the St. Louis Rams that netted 21 yards should have been disallowed. It was an illegal play involving two forward passes. […] According to an NFL digest of rules, “An offensive team may make only one forward pass during each play from scrimmage.” The penalty is five yards.

While I’ve never seen a team’s beat writer dig up something like this several days after the fact*, Grossi apparently prompted Shurmur with his take on the play with the coach confirming that the initial exchange between Cribbs and Wallace should have been a handoff.  A tad revisionist, it seems as if the discussion around said mishap is to only further the discussions about how inept the current offense is – even the trick plays aren’t executed correctly.

Needless to say, the Browns are not about to petition themselves out of the box score as they spend today as well as the subsequent three days preparing for a home bout against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

(Update: Thanks to comments below, this was not – as assumed – original thought.  PFT had the goods earlier this morning, though not cited in the PD report. Imagine that.)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

  • christopher

    wow, nice job Grossi.

    Way to break the “The One Exciting Play the Cleveland Browns Have Manufactured This Season” scandal wide open.

  • Lyon

    After I read the title I was hoping you were referring to handing off to the 3rd string TE. You know, so that we NEVER try that again, miscommunication or not.

    confused why Grossi decided to look this up unless someone else had done so previously.

  • Eric D

    Not sure when Grossi broke this, (he has blocked me on Twitter because I mentioned that perhaps as beat writer he should attend Browns press conferences) but it was on PFT this morning. I’m guessing this is where Tony got it.

  • Lyon

    Christopher, don’t hate! he’s actually doing reporting. Unless Eric is right and he just snaked it from PFT

  • dwhit110

    Better he actually reports on something like this, rather than trying to stir up unrest with Hillis, Shurmur, Holmgren… Mangini…

  • JM

    Guys keep in mind the national media broke stories before the local media this season. Of course he found it on PFT.

  • It’s not an illegal play if the refs didn’t call it!

    I did think, though, that you could have two forward passes as long as the first one didn’t cross the line of scrimmage, but apparently that is not the case.

  • jimkanicki

    here’s florio’s story on this at 7am today.

    grossi’s plagiarism is the story that’s more interesting to me. this is an extremely bizarre subject. to think that it would be simple coincidence for grossi to do some ‘reporting’ with shurmur on this particular play, this particular morning really requires advanced skills of imagination.

  • Eric D

    One other thing, I’m glad they missed it because there would have been absolute s—storm from certain factions looking to crucify Shurmur, maybe deservedly. But, that was blatant. I didn’t notice from where I was sitting, or maybe just glazed over it with all the excitement of a downfield play. The fact that the officials and the tv guys didn’t notice that it is absolutely inexcusable.

  • Mark

    I’m with Jim. Too coincidental for Grossi and Florio to both have the story separately. Not to turn this into a bash Grossi thread (way too easy – too much material) but his questions and answers on twitter are beyond infuriating. Browns fans deserve better.

  • ben

    “It’s not an illegal play if the refs didn’t call it!”

    I agree!!!

  • Right Side

    Why isn’t this play on madden?

  • mgbode

    eh, so we caught a break from the refs. they made up for it later not calling the false start on the FG.

  • MrCleaveland

    Jeez, Little can’t even get open on a double-reverse fire drill. Isn’t anybody coaching this guy?

  • christopher


    Grossi….reporting. you my good man have just won the interwebz joke of the day contest!

  • Lyon

    thank God you read it with sarcasm, i forgot to put my fontz on

  • Shamrock

    So Shurmur really doesn’t know what he’s doing. Shocking!

  • christopher


    come one now…i got your back!

  • C-Bus Kevin

    I knew it!

    I was thinking that right after they ran that play. My first thought was, “Wasn’t that technically a shovel pass?”

  • JM

    This one play will take up all 4 hours on Kiley and Booms for sure.

  • pepe

    The Browns had just as many forward pass completions on one play as the Broncos had all game.

  • 5KMD

    So then what’s the deal when a QB’s pass is blocked back to him and he throws it again? Isn’t that 2 forward passes on the same play? Does the block negate the first one or is Titus correct about not crossing the line of scrimmage? Because Cribbs’s shovel pass doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage either.

  • “So then what’s the deal when a QB’s pass is blocked back to him and he throws it again? Isn’t that 2 forward passes on the same play?”

    It is. I can’t think of who it was (I want to say John Skelton) last week, but he was flagged for this very mishap.

  • Pining4The’Ship

    @22 – Yes a few weeks back Curtis Painter was flagged for that very play.

  • 5KMD

    Thanks guys.